Magic Mike XXL: XXtra Unnecessary

When considering the near perfection of 2012’s Magic Mike (one of the last films Steven Soderbergh would direct), it should be no surprise that the studio, Warner Bros., would want to make a sequel so as to garner more money and destroy the memory of the original. Gregory Jacobs, Steven Soderbergh’s longtime right hand producer, stepped up to the plate to take the director’s chair (in spite of Soderbergh’s retirement from film, he showed enough respect for the film to edit and serve as director of photography) and, indeed, did a spot-on job of imitating the style and tone of the original. Nonetheless, the utter frivolity of the plot can’t be ignored.

Of course, Magic Mike XXL isn’t the first offending sequel to be inane, but rather, continues a long tradition of unnecessary additions to an original movie (see: Blues Brothers 2000, Mannequin 2 and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps). And, just as other sequels, key cast members from the first one are missing–in this case, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer and Cody Horn. To make excuses for their absence, the story Tarzan (Kevin Nash) tells Mike (Channing Tatum) to get him back into the clutches of his fellow “male entertainers” is that Dallas (McConaughey) has died, only to reveal the truth to them when he arrives at the “wake”: Dallas took The Kid (Pettyfer) with him to start an act in Macau, China.

Now that the remaining members of the Kings of Tampa are left to their own devices, they feel a new form of liberation in being free from the control of Dallas’ choreography and song/costume choices. It is, in fact, Mike’s presence on their weekend trip to the white trash Riviera (Myrtle Beach) that inspires them to shed their original acts and get creative with what they choose to perform for their swan song. Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), in particular, is moved by the challenge to find a subject that makes him passionate to channel into his performance. And yet, there is still zero depth to any of these characters.

Along the way the group stops off at a beach after going to a drag show at Mad Mary’s. While peeing near the water, Mike encounters his replacement love interest, Zoe (Amber Heard), as his original one, Brooke (Horn), purportedly shirked his engagement proposal and left him in the dust. Zoe and Mike share a flirtation centered around talking about their inner drag queens and then part ways. The next morning, Tito (Adam Rodruguez) brags about the girl’s number he got after having sex with her, while Big Dick Rich complains that his big dick ruined his chances of being with a woman yet again.

As they continue on their journey, having molly for breakfast leads them to a car accident that debilitates their MC for the weekend, prompting Mike to seek out an old friend in Savannah named Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), now the owner of a bordello-like male strip club. It is this scene in the film that is probably the most interesting, with approximately ten to fifteen minutes devoted to watching the women in the house go crazy over the men dancing in front of them, each room a different flavor for whatever brand of debauchery she’s looking for. Although Rome forgives Mike for “abandoning” her club for Dallas all those years ago, she declines his plea for her to MC their show.

Next on the stop list is Tito’s fling from the beach, an affluent property that her mother, Nancy (Andie MacDowell), runs with the flair of a Desperate Housewife. Rather than being surprised by the boys’ arrival, she and her friends get the wine flowing and start engaging them in conversation, taking a shine almost instantly to Big Dick. Mike again runs into Zoe, where she tells him her plans to go to New York have been foiled because the man interested in her photographs was really just interested in her. Determined to make her feel better–because that’s what male strippers do–Mike insists she comes to the convention to “get her smile back.”

At this point, the rest of what’s going to happen can be easily predicted: of course they steal the show with their own routines (again, the style of shooting is a bit drawn out with the near full playing of 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop,” D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel) and Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer), Rome shows up to MC and Mike gets the girl in the end. Thus, Magic Mike XXL proves its none too shocking lack of depth in the span of just under two hours.

Where the first one at least had more conflict between personalities and more character development, the second one is merely designed to accommodate making money off that odious concept known as “girls’ night.”